Most of us have neighbours or friends who seem to have it all … a beautiful designer house, the latest SUV, enormous flat screen tv and yearly overseas holidays to extraordinary destinations that most of us can only dream about! We want to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ by acquiring the same brands, and secretly even maybe outdo them with the very latest releases. In a material world that’s all about status and the latest tech gadgets, trying to buck the trend of conspicuous consumption is difficult but you should take a good hard look at your spending habits and deploy savvy saving tips if you want to create a future that’s financially secure.
In a world that is obsessed with celebrity where a daily fix of the Kardashians is routine, we aspire to the luxuries that are the norm of the rich and famous. According to a US survey entitled ‘Necessity or Luxury’, 33% of Americans deem satellite tv a necessity. Items such as a home computer, mobile phone, flat screen tv and even SUV car (justified because of its perceived safety) were all once luxury items that are now part of most middle-income families. In fact, a weekly maid, gardener and private contractor for simple DIY jobs is pretty standard in a South Africa household and could save a lot of money if done without.
But it’s no longer only the West that is known for its rampant consumerism with China and India’s emerging middle classes all trying to keep up with the lifestyles of their neighbouring countries. Factors’ driving this global phenomenon is the desire to appear successful by having the latest designer handbag or iPhone, a society inundated with advertising and clever product placements, and the easily available credit and reckless lending schemes.
Debt has become the norm in middle-class families with a staggering percentage of South Africans spending more than they earn, being seriously indebted, and forced to seek debt advice. The tough reality is that whilst the ‘Joneses’ are driving around in their fancy cars with the latest designer accessories, they are probably in debt and only keeping head above water because of debt consolidation loans. If you are trying to keep up with them, chances are that you’re in reality trying to keep up with their levels of debt and face the consequence of debt counselling further down the line. South African households are under ever more pressure from a struggling economy, soaring living costs, a corrupt government that enforces high taxes with little reward to the man on the street, and are forced to plug their financial holes by borrowing money thereby increasing their chances of a debt review. The trick is to stop and think if the latest iPhone or Mercedes will truly make you happier and contribute to your quality of life, and if so, if you can afford to buy it now or if it would be wiser to save up for it.
If you’re in the lucky position of having a never-ending supply of cash or a huge nest egg stashed away then you can spend away to your heart’s content. If, however, like most of us you are concerned about your financial future and you want a debt-free life devoid of debt consolidation schemes, you need to curb your spending, take no notice of the ‘Joneses’, and save for a happy retirement.